My Overall Thoughts:
I’ve only seen 4 of the nominees this year, but the biopic of famed writer and critic Zola is by far the best of the bunch largely due to the transformative performance by Muni.
All in all, this year seems like a somewhat mediocre class of BP nominees.
- 10.- The Good Earth – This isn’t a film that translates very well to the screen and is probably much more interesting as a novel. Muni and Rainer are both actually convincing as Orientals despite both of them being so distant from that origin. The story moves along at a super slow pace and despite a few interesting scenes, most of it is quite boring to watch. Rainer won Best Actress being the first person to win consecutive Oscars in the same acting category.
- 9. – Captains Courageous – Based on a novel by Rudyard Kipling that just doesn’t feel like anything special. This was Tracy’s first win for Best Actor even though it is far from being his best work. Story is a bit meandering and the characters feel too stereotypical of fishermen from long ago.
- 8. – Stage Door – Another Best Picture nominee that probably doesn’t meet the requirements for truly being among the best of the best. Ironically (and sadly), some of the antics depicted here between producers and aspiring actresses is still relevant today more than 80 years later. Hepburn and Rogers are both fine here with Menjou playing the perfect executive. Nice seeing Ball and Arden in small roles.
- 7. – In Old Chicago – Liked the way that the brotherly love is portrayed no matter what they would do to each other. The corruption of early Chicago definitely goes in sync with what has been historically proven ever since. Despite being a complete work of fiction, it was nice how they still incorporated some basic known facts about the history of the city and the great fire that happened in 1871. Great cast including Powell, Ameche and of course Brady as their mother.
- 6. – The Awful Truth – Really fun screwball comedy that works on so many levels. Grant and Dunne have great back and forth chemistry that is hilarious to watch unfold. Bellamy is great in a role of a character who is there just for the laughs but takes himself so seriously. The antics that both of these characters play in order to ruin the other’s budding relationships are quite clever and works so well
- 5. – Dead End – Interesting premise that just moves along a bit too slowly. The grittiness of the city is truly felt yet if it was made today, it would look more realistically gritty and downtrodden. The diverse characters work here because each of them have their own expectations and aspirations as to how to get out of the situation they all feel stuck in. Cast is quite good and it’s easy to see that Bogart had a future based on this role.
- 4. – One Hundred Men and a Girl – Great look at the troubles of the Depression on ordinary men. Yes, this film shows lots of hope especially when it seems lost, but still works. The story works really well the whole way through and keeps things interesting. Great cast led by Durbin and Menjou. Has some great musical numbers that show how beautiful music can really be.
- 3. – A Star is Born – Very interesting premise that is so timeless (as the many remakes help prove). The story flows so well and it’s fascinating to see how the story evolves even when looking at things from the perspective of 8 decades ago. March and Gaynor are both superb here and the way that fame has it’s ups and downs are presented quite well here. Very deserving of it’s nomination for Best Picture, even if it wasn’t the best film that year.
- 2. – Lost Horizon – Great idea about what people believe to be possible vs the reality of things. Love the way that this film touches upon so many different aspects of life and despite people wanting to find a perfect place to live, there truly is no place that is completely perfect. The story does have some holes in it, but it remains interesting and intriguing the entire time. I wonder how a remake of this idea would work nowadays. Capra does a wonderful job directing this film and gives us such an intelligent story the reflects the main theme he always tried to explore and that is the good nature of people even in situations which are beyond their control.
- 1. – The Life of Emile Zola – This is perhaps the first great courtroom drama movie. I am surprised that in 1937, they could make a movie done so well. The French system of justice runs slightly different than the US version, but the drama in the courtroom is still very riveting. Paul Muni was great as the title role just one year after winning the Best Actor Oscar for The Story of Louis Pasteur (1936). He completely carries the movie as the lone voice of advocacy for Dreyfus (Joseph Schildkraut) .
Do I agree with the Oscar winner? – Yes! The biopic of Zola is superbly done and gives us such an impression of who he was and his importance on society and trying to make social changes. None of the other nominees come anywhere close to being as effective.
Let me know what you think about these films and my rankings!